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(51:12, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Arabesques 4:58 2. Zone d'Ombre 2:30 3. Transparences 8:44 4. Lisiere Pourpre 6:49 5. Agrements Parfaitement Bleus-1 2:37 6. Resurgence d'Errance 4:50 7. Ephemere 4:06 8. Neuf Songes Variations 3:43 9. Noetra Final 1:26 10. Sens de l'Apres Midi 4:25 11. Noetra 7:04 LINEUP: Jean Lapouge – guitar Francis Michaud – sax Pascal Leberre – sax, clarinet Dominique Busson – flute, sax Christian Paboeuf – oboe, flute; guitars Claude Lapouge – trombone; guitars Pierre Aubert – violin Denis Viollet – cello Denis Lefranc – bass Daniel Renault – drums
Prolusion. The French band NOETRA was the creative vehicle of composer and guitarist Jean Lapouge, an active entity in the late 70's and early 80's, eventually disbanding in 1985 without ever releasing any material. But due to chance and circumstance some of their recordings were presented to Musea Records, which wanted to release this material. Since then four albums of archival recordings have been published. "Resurgences D'Errances" from 2011 is the most recent of these.
Analysis. The Noetra history is a story that appears to be filled with a number of occurrences in the almost department. Of which the high point, or low point depending on point of view, was the interest by the legendary label ECM, an interest that faded with each additional demo tape, according to the descriptions given by Jean Lapouge on his website. And almost is sort of a key word for my impression on this band's music too, at least as it comes across on this disc. The pieces on the CD are all live recordings, and they aren't of the highest quality. Which probably does have a negative impact as far as listener experience goes. When you have lo-fi recordings rescued from old cassette tapes there's a limit on how much you can salvage, and the medium itself isn't one kind to details. And I suspect that this band in their prime was an outfit where details were highly important. But other than the inferior quality of the recordings, there's a lot of almost at hand here. The overall style of the band for instance. This is a band that wanders freely between various kinds of dampened, elegant atmospheres, the level of sophistication depending very much on which constellation of the band that is performing. At their most simplistic they explore pastoral movements that appear to be founded in classical and folk music more than anything else, with the flute adding a folk-oriented sound and violin, saxophone and other additional instruments bringing the material closer to a chamber music environment. The guitar, and frequently plural guitars, has more of a subservient role, frequently gently wandering in more of a folk-oriented manner but occasionally hitting off in a more jazz-oriented direction. And when bass and drums maneuver in the same direction, the end result frequently becomes something almost. Not quite jazz, not quite folk, but not quite chamber music either. Caught between genre definitions to some extent, original and innovative perhaps, but not quite at the level of really making a grand impact: pleasant music existing somewhere in between genres, most likely of a much more refined character than these live recordings reveal. But we do get a glimpse of the upper range of the band's qualities on final instalment Noetra, a piece that opens in a dampened, careful manner, wandering in between folk-tinged and chamber music oriented passages in the initial phases, followed by a bass-driven jazz flavored build up in intensity concluding with an abrupt instrumental shout. With a dark droning sound I presume comes courtesy of the trombone as a distinct and highly effective feature for the brilliant conclusive movements of this piece.
Conclusion. Released some 30 years after they were recorded, these live efforts of Noetra will most likely appeal to a limited audience. The music itself is generally pleasant and should have a broad appeal as such, but the lo-fi character of the source material won't be to everybody's taste. It is a nice documentation of a band defying genre conventions however, their blend of influences from classical, folk and jazz combining into creations that don't really belong in either of these categories, mostly pleasant, but occasionally showing glimpses of brilliance and true genius, and most profoundly so on concluding piece Noetra.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 19, 2012
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